Julia Kociuban of Poland was the first pianist to perform on the first day of the 15th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition at Bass Performance Hall Thursday. Rodger Mallison rmallison@star-telegram.com
Julia Kociuban of Poland was the first pianist to perform on the first day of the 15th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition at Bass Performance Hall Thursday. Rodger Mallison rmallison@star-telegram.com

Van Cliburn

First Cliburn competitor starts it all with Beethoven

May 25, 2017 6:38 PM

FORT WORTH

Polish pianist Julia Kociuban opened the 15th Van Cliburn Piano International Competition on Thursday with an E-flat chord — wearing a sparkling turquoise dress before a crowd that filled about half of Bass Performance Hall.

Kociuban, 25, is the first of 30 competitors vying for the gold medal at the quadrennnial piano competition, which began with preliminary rounds Thursday. Kociuban said in a backstage interview that her heart was still racing after she finished the 45-minute recital which began with Beethoven’s Sonata No. 13 in E-flat Major, Op. 27, No. 1.

“Right now, I have so many emotions I can’t even think clearly,” she said. As she entered her dressing room, thee young pianist joked with the Cliburn staff, “No more being in first place please.”

Some of the patrons at the afternoon session were regulars at the competition, while others were attending for the first time.

Katie Drollinger, 17, of Grandview, who has taken piano lessons for 10 years, said her mom gave her tickets for her birthday.

“I’m looking forward to hearing everyone since it’s my first time,” Drollinger said, who was attending with her mother.

Austin resident Ron DeFord is a repeat listener at the competition, hoping to attend every performance by every performer for the third time in a row.

“I love it,” DeFord said. “The music feeds my soul and it’s just so beautiful.”

Catherine Lancaster of Westlake invited her neighbor’s children, Evan, Emma and Ellia Rush, all of Southlake, to attend the preliminary rounds. The kids, ages 11 through 16, all take piano lessons.

“I like that you can express how you feel and how you want to play,” Ellia, 11, said.

Since they were already finished with school for the year, the group made a day of it in downtown Fort Worth by having lunch at The Cheesecake Factory before the afternoon session.

“We watched everyone coming and going and people dressed up coming into the Hall, it’s very exciting,” Lancaster said.

Between competitors, the crowd browsed the gift shop in the main foyer, looking at T-shirts, CDs and Van Cliburn memorabilia. The top seller at the gift shop on day one: the $20 program guide, which lists all the competitors, their recital repertoire and hundreds of facts about the competition.

Outside the Hall as the afternoon session got underway, about a dozen protestors held signs criticizing Fort Worth mayor Betsy Price and the city police for their handling of the Jacqueline Craig case. Craig was arrested in December, along with her two daughters, after calling for police help in a case that has drawn community criticism and protests.

Thursday’s protesters shouted “No Justice, No Peace,” as they marched past the piano keyboard-painted crosswalk at 4th and Commerce streets.

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @andreaahles

FIFTEENTH VAN CLIBURN INTERNATIONAL PIANO COMPETITION

May 25-June 10

Bass Hall, Fort Worth

Complete competition subscriptions: $600-$3,000.

Preliminary round: May 25-28. All 30 competitors play a 45-minute solo recital, including a commissioned work written by Marc-André Hamelin. $80-$200 round subscription; $10-$35 per concert.

Quarterfinal round: May 29-30. Twenty competitors play a 45-minute solo recital. $80-$150 round subscription; $15-$40 per concert.

Semifinal round: June 1-5. Twelve competitors will play a 60-minute solo recital and a Mozart piano concerto with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. $280-$450 round subscription; $30-$120 per concert.

Final round: June 7-10. Six competitors will play a piano quintet with the Brentano String Quartet and a concerto with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. $150-$260 round subscription; $45-$180 per concert.

Awards presentation: 7 p.m. June 10. $30-$40.

The entire competition will be webcast live, hosted by pianists Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe, at Clburn2017.medici.tv. Content also will be available on demand. The final round will be broadcast in movie theaters around the country. For information and tickets, visit www.FathomEvents.com.

For more information, scheduling and tickets, visit Cliburn.org. Follow complete competition coverage at Star-Telegram.com

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